If you’ve been following our blog over a period of time you’ll know that we’ve moved quite a lot over the last two years. Initially landing in London in late March 2015, since then we’ve done stints in Glasgow, Surrey, Yorkshire, Milton Keynes, Bath and Watford, before we both got jobs in London and decided to concentrate our housesitting to within commutable distance of the big city.
From where you’re sitting it probably all looks wonderfully adventurous, to be able to move to a new location at the drop of a hat. Indeed it is exciting to see new places and look after new homes. It’s a great way to see a city or a whole country, on the cheap.
One of the biggest benefits is of course that we haven’t had to pay rent (with one exception) for any of the places we’ve stayed.
We get lots of people who say they’d love to do something similar. One of the questions that always gets asked is;
“What do you do with all your stuff?”
Stuff. By stuff I think most people mean furniture, books, CDs, clothes, all those things that everyone seems to own more than one piece of.
We arrived in the UK in with our suitcases and a carry on bag each. Over time we have accumulated a few more things, but we’ve had to make a conscious and ongoing commitment to not accumulate more stuff.
Furniture, well, there really isn’t any need for our own set. Every home we look after comes with it’s own set of furniture.
Of course comfort levels vary.
We remember fondly the sofas in our Claygate housesit. They had a brushed, flannel-like covering that seems to induce sleep as soon as you sat on them.
Beds. Oh my goodness, such personal things. The most comfortable was at a friends in Putney, in an almost empty house awaiting renovation but with a perfect bed that we never wanted to get out of. The worst was in Milton Keynes. It was so soft and prone to tipping us both into the middle and on top of each other that we almost gave up and slept on the floor.
Books and CD’s. Here you’ve struck one of our weaknesses. We both enjoy reading and listening to music. One of the biggest jobs we had when we left New Zealand was divesting ourselves of quite a few books. Teresa took it upon herself to try and sell as many as she could before we left, and having worked in a bookshop she had a good handle on what the market was likely to pay. From memory she managed to squeeze about $400 out of selling all our books.
Here in our housestting travels we’ve valiantly struggled to keep our book collection to a manageable level. As we speak I would say have about 12 books between the two of us. Teresa gave me two books for Christmas, both music biographies. I’m still working my way through the first one, Neil Young’s autobiography. He might have been a great song writer but he ain’t a great writer.
We’ve made the pact that we’ll limit our book buying to those on offer in charity stores. And when we buy one we must offload one too. This has generally worked well. You can usually pick up books in charity stores for 50p to a £1. You don’t get anything for the ones you donate back, but it’s no great loss if it’s only cost you a £1 in the first place. We both still love spending time in a Waterstones store. Occasionally we fall off the wagon and end up spending $10 on something brand new. Once it’s read though we look at the growing pile and think, “Hmmm, not such a great idea really”.
CD’s are similar to books in so far as every new housesit will invariably come with a collection of the owners musical tastes. It’s always fun looking through (with permission of course) an owners CD collection to try and discover any hidden gems.
Clothes. Now, in an ideal world we’d both be the same size as the owners and we would simply fit into all their clothes. Of course they wouldn’t mind us parading around in their outfits and we would both have a complete new wardrobe every few weeks. Alas, we haven’t yet found a home owner willing to share their lives quite that much!
For the first 10 months (while we weren’t working) it was a simple matter of a few pairs of jeans, t-shirts, socks, underwear, and some warmer things for winter including a pullover and raincoat. I brought my merino thermal underwear over from New Zealand and they have proven very valuable on the coldest winter days.
But once we got jobs it became it a bit trickier. I had to buy a suit. Teresa needed work outfits. All of a sudden we had to enlarge our wardrobe and, consequently, carry more clothing around with us. Again we’ve tried to be smart and thrifty with this. Mixing and matching items becomes very important. TK Maxx gets most of our business. TK Maxx is basically a clearing house for anything that other shops haven’t been able to sell. So you get some very good quality clothing at reasonable prices.
We’ve obviously become expert at packing our meager possessions. We still use our original suitcases that came with us from New Zealand. Everything gets rolled and every void gets filled. An empty shoe is a wasted space.
When it comes to moving day we can normally pack up in 30 minutes and fit everything into the car in a further 5 minutes. This is one of those moments when you really do feel happy not owning a lot of stuff.
Next time I’ll look at another common question we receive:
“What do you do about gaps in your schedule?”
Although we’ve had a great run with housesits, we have struck quiet periods where there hasn’t been much available. These circumstances take some creative thinking.